Why study economics? John Maynard Keynes once explained:
The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.
There are two required “discussion forums” that students must use in this class. Both of them are located in the school’s LMS (Desire2Learn at LCC), but I’m posting the prompt or explanation of one them here because it’s lengthy. One of the forums is a simple, straightforward, “Introduce Yourself” forum in Unit 1. Any online student is likely very familiar with the exercise. It’s purpose is to let you and your fellow students get to know each other a little so that discussion is possible and it feels less lonely.
The other assignment, what I’m calling the “Connecting With Macro Journal” assignment or forum, is what I want to discuss here.
The Where and When
In this assignment, you’ll use a D2L forum called “Connecting with Macro Journal” forum. You’ll be asked to create a new thread (make a post) in this forum in Unit 1. As soon as you create and post to your own thread, you’ll be able to see others’ threads and reply to them if you’re interested. However, the main purpose of your thread is for your own replies later in the course. Later in the course, you’ll be asked to post replies to your own thread. As a result, by the end of the course, you’ll have a kind of lightweight “journal” of your learning.
How many replies and how often? That’s partly up to you. The minimum that I expect/ask for is:
- Opening post in Unit 1 during the first week
- at least one reply to your original post by the end of Unit 5. You are welcome to do it any time before then. In fact, I urge you to post a reply anytime a new related thought hits you while you’re studying!
- at least another reply between Units 7 and the end of Unit 10.
- at least another reply between Units 11 and the end of Unit 13.
- A final reply, a little longer one, at the end during Unit 15 right before the final exam.
You are welcome and encouraged to post more often than these 4 replies to the original post. This is just the expected minimum. And don’t feel like it has to be done during unit 5, 10, and 13. If you think of something, feel free to do it sooner when it hits you.
What to Say
I’m looking for you to reflect on your own learning and your own relationship to the ideas in macroeconomics. It’s what the education and pedagogy gurus call “meta-cognition”.
So in the opening Unit 1 post, I want you to think about what topics or information or ideas you expect will be explored in macroeconomics. Then identify one or a few ideas that you feel are important to you or might be important to you in your future. I realize you don’t that much about macro yet. You’re just starting. Think about why something(s) in this course might be personally important to you. Tell us about that to the degree you feel comfortable.
For example, suppose you’re hoping to buy your first house in few years. You might be interested in how interest rates get determined. Or you might have reasons to be particularly interested in employment or unemployment trends. Or maybe you’re concerned about tariffs. Or maybe you’ve heard a recession is coming and you’re not sure what that means. Maybe there’s an economic term or measure you’ve heard used in the news or by your boss and you’re not sure what it really means. Whatever. We’re not judging here. You can list or speculate on multiple things.
The point of the exercise is help you identify a reason why the course is important and valuable to you. That helps you learn and structure the information as you learn it. Lots of good learning things happen from this kind of “meta-cognition”. I’ve always found that some students start macro (even more than micro) with a sense of “it’s just a box to check, it’s meaningless to my life, I’ll never be an economic policy advisor or an economist”. But the reality is that understanding how the macroeconomy works is a very valuable life skill. It’s helpful no matter what profession you enter. Truth is, you’re in the economy and it affects you, your family, and your career whether you pay attention or not. It’s better to be aware of how it works. It also helps you sort out all kinds of nonsense political claims and nonsense in the news.
The Replies throughout the Course
The replies are simply times for you to reflect on what you’re currently learning in the course and relate it to what you’ve said already in your thread. It might be that you learn something specific to answer what you posted about (yay! if/when that happens). It might be you come to discover some other thing that’s important to your life/insight and you hadn’t realized that before. It might also be an insight into how you’re learning or what you’re struggling with. You might discover a news article/story and relate it to what we’re studying. I don’t care what you reflect and say, only that you think about it and say something.
The Final Reply (Unit 15)
When you get to the end of the course, I’m interested in a kind of summary reflection about what you learned. Did you figure out what you wanted to? What else did you learn? What was most intriguing/memorable/important to you? What helped you learn it? Do you have any conclusions? Again, doing it is what’s important. I’m not judging what you say. I’m recording that you said it.